A recent decision about religion in the Montana court illustrates the value of judicial elections. At the public high school graduation in Butte, Montana, the valedictorian included the following in her prepared remarks, and I quote: “I didn’t let fear keep me from sharing Christ and His joy with those around me.” The school superintendent told her that the words “God” and “Christ” were not allowed in graduation speeches at Butte high school. Can you imagine that kind of censorship? The school principal told her that if she did not remove the religious references, then she would not be allowed to speak at all. The valedictorian stood her ground and did not delete her reference to Christ, so the school officials prevented her from giving the valedictorian speech that she had earned the right to give. The student then complained to the Montana Human Rights Bureau, but it did nothing to help her. Then, she sued in state court, but it also ruled against her, saying that the school’s censorship of “Christ” was somehow required by the First Amendment.
Long after her graduation, her case was ultimately decided by the Montana Supreme Court where the judges are elected, not appointed. That Court held in her favor and ruled: “We find it unreasonable for the School District to conclude that Griffith’s cursory references to her personal religious beliefs could be viewed by those in attendance at the [public high school] graduation ceremony as a religious endorsement by the School District.” Better late than never; this good news came because the state supreme court had judges who were elected.